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Latest News! 18th November, 2021

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Turning east off the R328 Turning east off the R328 - Photo: Oudtshoorn Tourism

The journey continues

In this newsletter we continue with our story on the Swartberg Classic Tour. This chapter deals with the drive from the  Koos Raubenheimer Dam to Meiringspoort via De Rust.


Rust en Vrede

Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall is hidden among the bracken-clad heights; therefore a walk over little bridges is required along the mountain trail. You are inspired by the beautiful wild flowers that bloom in great profusion alongside the path while far below amidst ferns and undergrowth, a powerful river ripples over rocky edges.

This scenic and peaceful trail ends in great reward. Collected at your feet is the sparkling pool that originated from a spring high up in the mountains. Rust-en-Vrede is a safe sanctuary for indigenous plant and animal life; definitely a precious asset of the Klein Karoo and Cango Valley.

A good swimming spot at the foot of the waterfall, however swimming is forbidden as this is drinking water / Photo: Cango Resort

On previous tours we always found this facility gated and locked, but on this tour it was open, so we decided it would be a good place to have our lunch break under the shade of the tall trees. Elation quickly turned to disappointment when the gate guard asked for R100 per vehicle.

"We will only be here for half an hour" I explained in suiwer Afrikaans, and my offer to negotiate a fairer price was met with a resolute shaking of the head. So if Oudtshoorn Municipality can take note: Perhaps your fee is fine for anyone wanting to spend the day there, but a one price fits all policy is costing your facility in lost revenue. Have three rates: Full day, half day or one hour, priced at say R100; R50 and R10 per vehicle.

Instead, we parked our convoy near the entrance gates and enjoyed our lunch in the balmy sunshine of 36C.

A peaceful pass

Immediately after the Rust en Vrede Waterfall and picnic area, the start of the pass of the same name begins.

South Africa and especially the Klein Karoo (Little Karoo) has some of the finest gravel roads for the purpose of eco-tourism. With the popularity of the GPS, these minor roads are just waiting to be discovered.

(Read more...)

This shady spot provides some relief from the sun / Photo: Going Somewhere Slowly

The Rust en Vrede Pass (Rest and Peace) provides a fabulous drive along a gravel road with sufficient gradient and curves to make it a memorable mountain pass. It follows the east/west axis of the Swartberg Mountains on its southern side.

We ambled along this pass, which is just under 5 km in length and soon arrived at one of SA's largest olive oil producers on the Ou Muragie Road. We are considering working in a visit to this well known establishment, De Rustica, on our next Swartberg Tour.

De Rust

We passed through the town of De Rust. Long before the village of De Rust was established the area with its perennial springs and abundant wildlife had been inhabited by the indigenous San people. Following the movement of settlers inland from the Cape it became a favourite place to “outspan” near a mountain spring and rest before tackling the challenging route through the gorge.

Aerial view of De Rust


Thus De Rust (literally translated as “The Rest“) was established in 1900 on a portion of the farm belonging to a certain Mr. Meiring - the same Meiring after whom Meiringspoort was named. Today it is a quaint and serene village that boasts a number of historical buildings and various tourism related establishments.

Although it is small, De Rust is a surprisingly convenient travel base. From here you can do all manner of day trips to places like Prince Albert, Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves, Klaarstroom, the Swartberg Pass, Meiringspoort and beyond.

It will also be well worth your while to visit De Rustica Olive Estate, Doornkraal Padstal and 2 Doorn Equine, Excelsior Vlakteplaas, Domein Doornkraal and various walking and cycling trails through the mountains and surrounding farmlands.

From De Rust we ambled through the famous Meiringspoort in wonderment of the stupendous geology and history.

The main rest stop in Meiringspoort looking north / Photo: MPSA


Meiringspoort is a Top 10 destination. The poort bears a tough history of floods and landslides amongst incredible hardships, yet our engineers and road builders mastered the art of building a magnificent road through this awe-inspiring poort.

The pass is in superb condition and offers typically gentle poort gradients, but the 63 bends, corners and curves do require a high level of concentration. It's easy to become mesmerised by the mind boggling scenery, so drivers need to remain focused and understand that the lack of safety shoulders and large volume of heavy trucks means a certain level of danger is always present. It's best to drive this poort on a weekend or public holiday, when there are fewer trucks. Stop often and enjoy one of South Africa's finest poorts which is packed with history.

One of the 25 odd river crossings in Meiringspoort

Not only is the natural geology of the poort amongst the finest in the world, but the road itself is a masterpiece of modern engineering and to cap it all, the maintenance of the roads and facilities is amongst the best (if not the very best) that you will find in South Africa. This little story is quite unique in itself in that a lady from a local community project, was given the opportunity to tender for the contract to maintain the facilities.

Meiringspoort rest stops and the entire poort is immaculately clean / Photo:MPSA

She won the tender and set to her task with a vengeance. The entire pass is immaculate, spotless and litter free and has been like that since 2000. The facilities and especially the rest-rooms are kept in pristine condition. Meiringspoort is a shining example to every other roads authority in South Africa to follow.

It was warm at the Interpretive Centre with the temperature above 35C. Most of our guests braved the heat and climbed up to the waterfall.

Next week: A slip at the waterfall leads to a trip to the hosipital


PASS OF THE WEEK

>Click on the link below which will take you directly to the Meiringspoort page where you can enjoy the full story with videos.


* *   M E I R I N G S P O O R T  * *

 


Trygve Roberts
Editor

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